LEADERSHIP COMPETENCIES DEFINITION
A simple leadership competencies definition can be hard to find. Many organizations and experts have attempted to provide a leadership competencies definition only to complicate things even more for their readers.
In our search for a clear and concise leadership competencies definition we have come across what we feel are some of the best definitions for what leadership competencies are, and exactly what is meant by this leadership development term. Here are just a few of what we consider to be the best definitions of leadership competencies from very reliable and well respected organizations.
FROM THE SOCIETY FOR HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
"Leadership competencies are leadership skills and behaviors that contribute to superior performance. By using a competency-based approach to leadership, organizations can better identify and develop their next generation of leaders. Essential leadership competencies and global competencies have been defined by researchers. However, future business trends and strategy should drive the development of new leadership competencies. While some leadership competencies are essential to all firms, an organization should also define what leadership attributes are distinctive to the particular organization to create competitive advantage."
FROM BERSIN BY DELOITTE
"Successful leadership development programs are based on leadership competencies that drive an organization’s business goals. By isolating and agreeing upon leadership competencies most important to your business, you will have the foundation for leadership development, as well as succession planning, career development and other talent processes...Competencies provide directional guidance to executives who are looking for signposts that explain what they are expected to do."
FROM HARVARD UNIVERSITY
"Leadership Competencies...in the most general terms, are “things” that an individual must demonstrate to be effective in a job, role, function, task, or duty. These “things” include job-relevant behavior (what a person says or does that results in good or poor performance), motivation (how a person feels about a job, organization, or geographic location), and technical knowledge/skills (what a person knows/demonstrates regarding facts, technologies, a profession, procedures, a job, an organization, etc.). LeadershipCompetencies are identified through the study of jobs and roles."
"Many companies use ‘competencies.' These are the integrated knowledge, skills, judgment, and attributes that people need to perform a job effectively. By having a defined set of leadership competencies for each role in your business, it shows workers the kind of behaviors the organization values, and which it requires to help achieve its objectives. Defining which leadershipcompetencies are necessary for success in your organization can help you do the following: ensure that your people demonstrate sufficient expertise, recruit and select new staff more effectively, evaluate performance more effectively, identify skill and competency gaps more efficiently, provide more customized training and professional development, plan sufficiently for succession, make change management processes work more efficiently." Additions in italics.
FROM "WHAT ARE LEADERSHIP COMPETENCIES" BY SUHAKA LDA
"In its most simple form, think of a leadership competency as anything a leader is, knows, or does. When we ask “what are leadership competencies” we are really asking is “what do leaders need to know, do, and be.” A good leadership competencies definition is critical to helping ensure the success of any leadership competencies development effort in your organization. If people don't know exactly what you mean when you say leadership competencies, good luck making your program a success. Do you have a leadership competencies definition that has worked for you? Contact us and share your definition and we will consider it for inclusion in this white paper.
What are leadership competencies? This is one of the most common questions and points of confusion for those beginning to study and participate in leadership development? The words "leadership competencies" can seem complicated, confusing, and intimidating to try and understand. Spend a little time in leadership development and you are sure to hear someone talk about leadership competencies, so you better know what leadership competencies are.
In its most simple form, think of a leadership competency as anything a leader is, knows, or does. When we ask “what are leadership competencies” we are really asking is “what do leaders need to know, do, and be.” Let’s elaborate a little bit more.
The word “competency” is formally defined as “an ability to do something, especially measured against a standard (per the Encarta dictionary).” Any of these examples are things a leader could be required to know, do, or be, and are therefore considered to be leadership competencies: setting strategy, motivating people, organizing work, creating a vision, giving feedback, delivering results, being honest, practicing patience, etc. All of these are things that leaders are expected to know, be, or do well.
The word “competencies” has many synonyms that can help us further understand in more detail what we mean when we ask the question “what are leadership competencies?” Consider these words in place of the word competencies: leadership skills, leadership abilities, leadership qualities, leadership characteristics, and leadership aptitudes. All of these synonyms point to things that leaders are expected to know, be, or do, and are just another way to describe what leadership competencies are.
Now, that is the meaning of what leadership competencies are, but let's get more practical as to how they are used and why they are so important. Leadership competencies are the foundation building block to defining leadership, and building successful leadership development programs. Can you imagine driving across the country without a map. How far would you get? How much longer would it take? How frustrating would it be? Organizations create leadership competencies to give their leaders a map of what it means in their organization to be a good leader, and how to get there. By defining what their most important leadership competencies are, they are defining the expectation of what it means to be a leader in their organization.
In terms of their real application, notice in the dictionary definition the reference to a “standard that can be measured.” A key characteristic of leadership competencies is that they have been descriptively written in such a way that they create a shared standard by which all leaders can be assessed and measured. Because they are a standard, and can be applied to anyone, a leadership competency becomes measurable across an entire organization, not just a select few. Any good leadership competency will have some sort of measurement system that allows leaders to assess themselves against it.
Organizations have two options when creating leadership competencies. The first option is to answer the question "what are our leadership competencies" from scratch. This involves a very labor intensive effort that can span many months. The process can include interviews, discussions, meetings, and draft after draft of what leadership competencies matter most to the organization. After getting agreement on a set list, then the work begins to write them and describe them in actionable ways that others can understand and apply.
The second option is for an organization to purchase content that has already been created, and then customize it or brand it to make it their own. Think of this approach like buying pizza dough that is already made, allowing you the fun of just putting on the toppings and cooking it, instead of having to make your own pizza dough from scratch.
Time after time it has been proven that this second approach will save organizations time and money, allowing them to get results faster for their investment in leadership development. This is the purpose of The Definitive Leadership Competencies Guide. The Guide includes a set of leadership competencies with descriptions and ways to measure them that any organization can take, customize, and use as a foundation to their own leadership development program.
You can see our leadership competencies list, explore our leadership competencies examples, learn about leadership competencies assessments and building a leadership competencies model, and learn more about how The Definitive Leadership Competencies Guide can help you further answer the question "what are leadership competencies" on this site. If you have more questions in regards to what are leadership competencies you can also contact us and we'd be happy to share.
Leadership competencies are a core foundation to leadership development One of the most long-standing conversations in the field of leadership development is the value of leadership competencies. Do leadership competencies provide value? There are many reasons that new and old voices will proclaim leadership competencies are ineffective, or a thing of the past. We want to present what we consider to be the top reason for why we need to continue to rely on leadership competencies, why leadership competencies are important, and why they will continue to be the backbone for any successful leadership development effort. We will also try and refute what seems to be the number one reason people turn their back on leadership competencies as a viable tool in leadership development.
THE TOP ARGUMENT FOR LEADERSHIP COMPETENCIES
Have you ever tried getting somewhere you have never been without knowing how to get there? How did it go? Can you imagine having someone tell you they need you to get in the car and travel somewhere, while refusing to tell you where they want you to travel to or how to get there? Many would look upon this scenario and quickly agree it is inconceivable, maybe even irresponsible, and certainly unobtainable. Without knowing where to go, or how to get there, a a certain destination can never be reached.
If we understand that simple principle, then it should be easy to apply this analogy to leadership competencies to help us understand why leadership competencies are important. Leadership competencies are the map of leadership that is used to show, teach, and explain a leadership destination to those trying to achieve leadership growth. Without leadership competencies, how do leaders know where they need to go? How do they know what is expected? How do they know what it looks like to be great? The answer is they can’t. As soon as you take away leadership competencies from a leadership development program you have taken away its cornerstone. You are effectively telling someone to go somewhere without specifying where or giving directions for how to get there.
At its most basic level leadership competencies are simply statements of what is expected of a leader. Many will vocally speak out against leadership competencies, and then fill their leadership classes with definitions of what they want their leaders to be. An apple by any other name is still an apple, and any definition of a leadership destination is still a leadership competency, whether it is called it directly or not.
In the world of leadership development, you have to have some way of describing to others what you want them to be, how you want them to act, or how you want them to think etc. Any effort to answers those questions produces leadership competencies, which is why leadership competencies are here to stay and will continue to be relied upon as the backbone of any effective leadership development effort. Without answering those questions, and creating leadership competencies, you can’t develop a leader into anything.
REFUTING THE TOP ARGUMENT AGAINST LEADERSHIP COMPETENCIES
If leadership competencies are so basic and foundational, then why do people argue against them? The most common argument against leadership competencies is that they just don’t work. Continuing our use of analogies, this is like a young child entering into a car and closing the door, then declaring the car doesn't work because it doesn’t turn itself on and begin driving him or her around. The fact the car does not work is not a problem with the car, but a user problem.
The same is true for the use of leadership competencies in leadership development programs. When they don’t work it is not a problem with leadership competencies, it is a user problem. Many will say that leadership competencies are too complicated for application in their organizations, when in fact the problem is a user error in not making them simple. Some will say that leadership competencies are not practical for use by busy line managers because they are too cumbersome, when the real problem is a user error in not making them easily applicable.
If you were to examine every scenario in which leadership competencies didn't work you will assuredly find a user problem, a user being defined as those that designed and created the leadership competencies for use in the organization.
The most consistent root cause for leadership competencies user error is ignoring the principle to not "look beyond the mark." Management asks for simple leadership solutions and far too often HR people or leadership development people get carried away with all the bells and whistles. What begins as a simple need for leadership competencies turns into discussions of multiple dimensions, five-level matrices, PhD level analytics and other tools that take the simple idea of leadership competencies and turn them upside down with complexity. In these instances the problem isn't in leadership competencies, but in their users.
You can’t blame a car for not working when the problem is the driver who doesn’t know how to drive it, and you can’t blame leadership competencies when you have people who don’t know how to design and implement them. When created and implemented correctly, like the correct use of a vehicle, leadership competencies will take any organization and their individual people on a very successful leadership growth journey.
On March 15, 2016 the Harvard Business Review posted an article on leadership competencies by Sunnie Giles entitled The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leaders Around the World. Sunnie surveyed 195 leaders in 15 countries across 30 global organizations and had them identify the leadership competencies included in The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leaders Around the World from an initial list of 74 leadership competencies. This is the first round of a study that is being completed and reported by Sunnie.
In The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leaders Around the World the leadership competencies that were identified are shown below in a summary graphic provided in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) report.
You can click on each of the ten leadership competencies below, taken from Sunnie's list, to be taken to our correlating leadership competencies content to learn more about each one based on our qualitative research. We look forward to learning more from Sunnie as the work to understand The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leaders Around the World continues to be shared.
In June of 2014 Jack Zenger published a short piece on the most important leadership competencies for global leaders for Forbes. Their research conclusions were based on a study of 108 senior executives in corporations across the world who had taken a 360 leadership competencies assessment and had rated in the 90th percentile for global perspective. You can read the whole article here.
After identifying the senior executives who rated higher than their peers in the area of global perspective they identified the top six leadership behavior or leadership competencies that differentiated them from the rest of those in the study. You can see the six leadership competencies listed below. You can click on each of the leadership competencies to see our respective leadership competencies content for each.
1. Strategic perspective
2. Customer focus and understanding
3. Ability to spot trends and connect the dots
4. Engaged and committed teams
5. Willingness to take risks
6. Deep knowledge and expertise
Lominger competencies, and the Lominger competencies list, were first developed by Lominger International. The keystone product for sharing the Lominger competencies was a book called FYI: For Your Improvement, that provided actionable development suggestions and definitions for all of the Lominger leadership competencies. The Lominger competencies book included 67 Competencies, 19 Stallers and Stoppers, and 7 Global Focus Areas.
In 2006 Lominger International, and all of the Lominger competencies products were purchased by the executive recruiting firm Korn Ferry International in an effort to expand Korn Ferry's product offering beyond executive recruitment. FYI: For Your Improvement and the Lominger competencies products are now offered by Korn Ferry via their website.
Korn Ferry International did a major overhaul of the original Lominger competencies list when they reduced the Lominger competencies list to 38 Korn Kerry Leadership Architect competencies, and 10 career Stallers and Stoppers. In the current FYI: For Your Improvement you will find the following for each of the 38 remaining Lominger competencies: competency definitions, examples of skilled, less skilled, talented, and overused skills content, tips to develop each of the Lominger competencies on the Lominger competencies list, job assignments that can aid in developing the 38 leadership competencies, and some suggested readings.
The SLDA leadership competencies solution strategically differs from the Lominger competencies found in Korn Ferry's FYI: For Your Improvement and their list of 38 leadership competencies in the following five ways.
The Lominger competencies, and their original 67 leadership competencies list, and the current 38 leadership competencies in the Korn Ferry book FYI: For Your Improvement, have provided the leadership competencies standard for decades. The quality of the Lominger/Korn Ferry content and offerings have been a backbone to the field of leadership development during this same era.
At Suhaka Leadership Development Associates we hope that the SLDA leadership competencies solution, where it is the best fit, will become a welcome addition to the options for companies to consider when selecting a leadership competencies partner.
Since the release of The Leadership Competencies Library more than 100 groups and organizations from 27 different countries are using the breakthrough materials created by Suhaka Leadership Development. Where you can find the influence of our leadership content? Here is the growing list:
Each red dot on the map below is a country where you can find the content from the Leadership Competencies Library being used today.
Suhaka Leadership Development has partnered with Akos, from Corvinus University, in Budapest Hungary, to study the most important leadership competencies for today's successful business entrepreneurs. The findings from his research will be published in 2018, a summary of which will be provided via our website to our partners and guests.
Suhaka Leadership Development has provided their content to and partnered with students from Tarlac State University in the Philippines who are doing a thesis study entitled “Leadership Capability of Women Administrators in Tarlac State University”. Students are using content from the online version of "The Leadership Competencies Library" as a resource to help them create questionnaires to gather their research data.